Sciatica refers to pain that moves along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. Typically, sciatica affects only one side of your body.

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The most common symptom of sciatica is a pain in the lower back that radiates down the leg. The pain can appear sharp, stabbing, or burning. A person can also experience numbness, tingling, and weakness in the leg.

Sciatica Defined

Sciatica is a condition that affects millions of people around the world. It is caused by the compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back through the buttocks and down each leg. Sciatica pain can be unbearable and severe, making it difficult for individuals to perform their daily activities.
Sciatica is neuralgia caused by damage or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve appears as the longest and thickest (close to finger width) nerve in the body. It is actually composed of 5 nerve roots. Two are from the lumbar region, called the lumbar spine, and three are from the last part of the spine, called the sacrum. The five nerve roots combine to form the left and right sciatic nerves. The sciatic nerve passes through the hips, buttocks, and one leg on both sides of the body and ends just below the knee. The sciatic nerve then branches down the leg to other nerves that travel down the foot and toes. True Sciatica Injury “Sciatica” does not happen often, but the term “sciatica” refers to pain that begins in the lower back and spreads to the legs.

Sciatica Pain

Immediate relief for sciatica pain is a concern for anyone who suffers from this condition. There are a number of treatment options available for sciatica pain relief, including over-the-counter pain medications, prescription drug medication, heat therapy, and stretching exercises. However, it is important to consult with a spine doctor before starting any new treatment regimen.
Sciatic nerve treatment can vary depending on the underlying cause of the condition. For example, if the sciatica is caused by a herniated disc, surgery may be required to relieve the pressure on the nerve. However, as written before, many cases of sciatica can be treated with non-surgical methods. 

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a condition characterized by pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down through the hips, buttocks, and legs. The pain can appear sharp or dull and numbness, tingling, or weakness may also occur in the affected leg.

What Causes Sciatica?

Sciatica is most commonly caused by a herniated disc in the lumbar spine (lower back) that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. Other causes of sciatica can include spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, or a tumor in the spine.

How is Sciatica Treated?

Treatment for sciatica typically begins with conservative measures such as rest, ice, heat, and over-the-counter pain medications. Physical therapy, chiropractic care, and acupuncture may also be helpful in relieving symptoms. If conservative measures are not effective, more aggressive treatments such as steroid injections or surgery may be considered. However, the specific treatment approach will depend on the underlying cause of the sciatica and the individual needs of the patient. It is important to seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider for the proper diagnosis and treatment of sciatica.

Sciatica pain relief can be achieved through simple lifestyle changes as well. Maintaining good posture, exercising regularly, and avoiding prolonged sitting or standing can all help alleviate sciatica pain. However, Severe sciatica pain can be debilitating and affect an individual’s quality of life. In some cases, prescription medications or even surgery may be necessary to provide relief.
Unbearable sciatica pain can make it difficult to perform even the most basic daily activities. If left untreated, sciatica pain can lead to long-term complications, such as permanent nerve damage. It is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible if you are experiencing severe or unbearable sciatica pain.

Sciatica Facts

Depending on the etiology, people describe sciatica pain in a variety of ways — sharp, shooting, or jerky pain. Others describe this pain as a burning sensation, electricity, or a puncture wound. The pain may be persistent or intermittent. In addition, patients state that back pain does not hurt as much as leg pain. When you sit or stand for lengthy periods of time, stand up, or twist or move your upper body, the pain may get worse. A forceful and quick body movement, such as coughing or sneezing, might aggravate the pain.

Normally, sciatica just affects one leg at a time. However, sciatica can occur on both feet. It all depends on where the nerve gets pinched along the spinal column.  Sciatica can strike abruptly or develop over time. It all depends on the situation. A herniated disc can cause excruciating agony. Spinal arthritis develops gradually over time.   Sciatica does occur very frequently. Sciatica affects around 40% of Americans at some time during their life. The third most common reason people visit their doctor occurs as a result of back pain.

Sciatica Explained

Watch Dr. Ishaq Syed explain “sciatica, which is caused by a herniated disc that is out of place pressing on a nerve. This can cause pain and weakness in the leg. There are lots of different treatment options.”

 Dr. Ishaq Syed

The Common Causes of Sciatica

The following describes the reasons why people get Sciatica:

  • The muscles of your back and abdomen make up your “core.” Your lower back will gain support if your core becomes stronger by building your muscles in the lower back.
  • Jobs that entail heavy lifting or lengthy sitting may raise your risk of lower back issues and the use of your back.
  • You can have sciatica even if you’re physically healthy and active if you don’t use good body form when lifting weights or doing other strength training activities
  • Sitting for lengthy periods of time without exercising and keeping your muscles moving, might increase your chance of developing sciatica.
  • Tobacco smoke contains nicotine, which can harm spinal tissue, weaken bones, and hasten the deterioration of vertebral discs.
  • Sciatica can develop after a lower back or spine injury.
  • The changes and movements in bones, discs, and ligaments that occur as you age might put your nerves in danger of being harmed or pinched.
  • The heavier a person, the more the back muscles need to function. This can lead to back tension, pain, and other back problems.

Does Excessive Weight During Pregnancy Cause Sciatica?

Although sciatica occurs frequently during pregnancy, increased weight does not cause sciatica in pregnant women. Moreover, a better explanation points to pregnancy hormones causing ligaments to relax. Then, ligaments connect the vertebrae, protect the discs, and maintain spinal stability. Also, loose ligaments can make the spine unstable and allow discs to slide, causing nerve pinching and the development of sciatica. In addition, the weight and location of the infant might also put a strain on the nerve. Today’s medical procedures can relieve sciatic pain while pregnant, and the pain goes away after the baby arrives. Physical therapy and massage treatment, as well as warm baths, heat, medicines, and other methods, can help. If you’re pregnant, maintain an appropriate posture during your pregnancy to reduce pain.

What Health Problems Cause Sciatica?

  • Sciatica is most commonly caused by a nerve root that becomes compressed by a herniated or slipped disc.
  • Disc wear reduces the height of the discs, narrowing the nerve pathways (spinal stenosis), which may put pressure on the sciatic nerve roots.
  • Spinal Stenosis refers to the improper narrowing of the spinal canal that may cause sciatic nerve compression.
  • Spondylolisthesis might squeeze the sciatic nerve.
  • Osteoarthritis may appear and press on the nerves in the lower back.
  • A lumbar spine or sciatic nerve traumatic damage.
  • Tumors can cause compression of the sciatic nerve in the lumbar spinal canal.
  • When the piriformis muscle, a small muscle deep in the buttocks, contracts or spasms, it can irritate and push on the sciatic nerve.
  • Cauda equina syndrome refers to an uncommon condition affecting the cauda equina, a bundle of nerves near the end of the spinal cord.
  • Diabetes raises the risk of nerve injury.
  • Osteoarthritis can put your nerves in jeopardy.

Sciatica Symptoms 

Sciatica is a condition characterized by pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down through the hips, buttocks, and legs. The symptoms of sciatica can vary from person to person but may include:

  • Sciatica causes moderate to severe pain in the lower back, buttocks, and down the leg.
  • Numbness or weakness in the hips, buttocks, legs, or feet
  • Pain that becomes worse with movement; inability to move.
  • Foot, toe, or tingling of the foot.
  • Loss of control over bowels and bladder (due to cauda equina).

It is important to note that not all cases of leg pain emanate from sciatica. Other conditions, such as muscle strain, spinal stenosis, or a herniated disc, can cause similar symptoms. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is important to seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.

If I’m Diagnosed With Sciatica, What Can I Expect?

Sciatic pain normally goes away on its own with time and self-care. Also, the majority of persons with sciatica (80 percent to 90 percent) recover completely without surgery, and nearly half of them do so within six weeks. If your sciatica pain does not get better and you’re worried about not recuperating as soon as you’d want, make an appointment with one of our doctors.

Does Sciatica Pain Come From Only the Sciatic Nerve?

No, the sciatic nerve does not provide the only source of pain associated with “sciatica” or sciatica. The source of the pain can sometimes appear higher up in the lumbar spine, causing pain at the front of the thigh or in the hip area. The pain is still referred to as sciatica.

How Can I Tell If My Hip Pain Comes From Sciatica or a Hip Problem?

Hip disorders, such as arthritis, frequently produce groin pain, which gets worse when you put weight on your leg or move it around. However, sciatica occurs as the most common cause of back pain that moves or radiates to the hip or down the leg, as well as numbness, tingling, or weakness in the leg.

Sciatica Treatment

The medical treatments for sciatica may vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of the symptoms. The following identifies some common non-surgical treatments:

  • Rest: Taking a break from activities that aggravate the condition and resting for a short period of time can help reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Ice and heat therapy: Applying ice or heat to the affected area can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Pain medications: Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can provide exercises and stretches to help relieve sciatic pain and improve strength and flexibility in the affected area.
  • Epidural steroid injections: A steroid injection placed into the space around the spinal cord normally reduces inflammation and relieves pain.

If non-surgical treatments do not fix the problem, doctors will recommend surgical intervention.  Some surgical treatments for sciatica may include:

  • Microdiscectomy: A minimally invasive surgery to remove a herniated disc that is pressing on the sciatic nerve.
  • Lumbar laminectomy: A procedure that removes part of the vertebra to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  • Spinal fusion: A surgical procedure that joins two or more vertebrae together to stabilize the spine and reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  • Artificial disc replacement: A surgical procedure that replaces a damaged or degenerated disc with an artificial one to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.

It is important to seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider for the proper diagnosis and treatment of sciatica.

We can help

From the first time you walk into the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute offices, you will feel at ease. Then, you will talk to one of our expert doctors.  Our doctors will listen and understand your problem and perform a detailed exam. The doctor will review your X-rays and other tests with you, in detail, and provide a diagnosis. After you become well-informed, you and your doctor will plan the right treatment. Finally, if our doctor feels that surgery will not provide the desired result, he’ll tell you. Our doctors treat every patient individually and they will offer non-surgical treatments whenever possible as the first course of treatment.  If you are in pain, we invite you to call us and make an appointment.  There is help and we want you to live a pain-free life.


The British Medical Journal: Sciatica


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